To educate, challenge and involve the people of Northern Ireland in the Christ-like and unique mission of The Leprosy Mission worldwide, and to contribute to its overall operations and development.
The Leprosy Mission NI
t: +44 (0)28 9262 9500
Mostaj Saphi and Sami Khartoum
Mostaj is twelve and Sima is eight. They are brother and sister, but it is customary for Muslim girls to take the name "Khartoum". Their father is with them today, but like so many men from Nepal he travels to Qatar for employment so that he might offer his family better opportunities than working for harsh landowners will allow them. There is another man completing the little group. He clearly has signs of leprosy and after some conversation it emerges that he is a facilitator of a self-care group in his village. He is also the great uncle of the two children. It was he who recognized the early signs of leprosy on the children and was able to persuade the children's father to take them Lalgadh.
The father listens gravely to the confirmation that his two children have leprosy; his eyes passing back and forth from the two little people to Kiran Jha who tells him. It’s almost as though he needs to keep looking, as though he was guilty for not having noticed earlier, guilty for not being available for his children. Poverty is particularly cruel when it compels traditional families to live apart from each other.
The old uncle says he will look after the children and make sure that they take the medicine they will need. He is asked if the children will be discriminated against, “it’s harder for us because we are poor, rich people have their own bathrooms so people don’t notice things so much, but we will try and hide it from the school so that the other children will not sun them.”
“Do people still shun you?” asks Kiran Jha.
“I am not allowed to enter the houses of other people and I am still not allowed to draw water from the public pump, actually I’m not allowed to touch the pump.” The old uncle turns to spit out of the door and then continues, “I am old, for me it no longer matters that people hate me, but it must not be so for these two.” He knocks gently on the heads of the two nonplussed children and somehow I feel that their lives will be compensated for the absence of their father, at least to some extent.